If you pick up the “Wine Bible”, touted as the “most complete wine book ever” by Karen MacNeil, you will not find Temecula California Wine Country. You will not even find the word Temecula in the index. That’s right folks…a book copy written in 2000 about wine by an American author doesn’t so much as acknowledge that there are vines in Temecula, let alone 40 year old vines, 36 (or is it 37) wineries, and a whole fascinating history more colorful than Sonoma in September. That infuriated me, as person who has been working in the wineries of Temecula for more than five years learning about an ancient craft that has been carried on with passion and integrity by dozens of viticulturists (wine growers) and winemakers here for more than a quarter century.
Alright, so maybe 25 years is not all that long, relatively speaking, when it comes to wine regions. Still, there is much to tell about the success, struggles, and failures of the Temecula vines and their keepers. There is a lot of amazing wine to talk about, and to hopefully have a chance to share with you. Sadly, there are many wines made in this Valley that are little more than expensive, fortified Kool-Aid’s. I cannot deny that. That’s what happens when a wine region is close enough to, hmm, say nearly 25 million people for them to drive an hour to go “winery hopping”. Hey, that does have its place, but it also made it difficult for “real” winemakers to gain clout for many years if the Temecula zip code was attached to their name.
My goal is to share with all of you some of the great wines, eclectic and beautiful wineries, history and goings-on in this largely misunderstood, beautiful and accessible valley of vines. From a huge diversity of varietals due to the microclimates found from the basin to the edges of the surrounding mountains to a great selection of live music, Temecula has a lot more to offer than most people realize. Hell, apparently a lot of people don’t even know we’re here! I gotta change that!
I have been living and working in Temecula for about five years now, but the vines and wineries have been here much longer. And I am an inquisitive one, so I have been asking questions of every wine person I have met since I started in the business, sometimes to the point of annoyance. But I am big into authenticity, which is part of what drew me to wine in the first place. Let’s face it, twenty years ago when I tasted my first French Merlot my tongue didn’t quite get it. I mean, it wasn’t cough syrup or vinegar, but it certainly wasn’t a Margarita or Pina Colada. But I was a bartender in Pavilion French Café, and if a guest bought a glass of wine for me, it was good form to drink it. Within a short time, the allure of the fruit that is the canvas for so many works of art has raised my curiosity (and changed my pallet) enough to start “researching” it. Well, and drinking more of it.
That was back in the mid-nineties. In 2005, my former spouse and I found ourselves buying a very overpriced “lake front cottage”, which was neither “lake front” nor “cottage” in Temecula. Temecula, a suburbia of 100, 000 people who were either military, as we were, in construction (there were lots of “cottages” going up), or were commuting to one of the three metropolises an hour plus away. The saving grace of this generic bedroom community for me was that not ten minutes from the tract homes and Applebee’s was Temecula Wine Country.
Today I work in one of the truly authentic wineries in Temecula Valley owned and operated by the Wiens Family. Wiens Family Cellars is known for producing some of the biggest, boldest reds in Temecula including some stellar, complex blends. Producing around 9500 cases a year, we are too big to be a boutique winery and but not large enough to distribute commercially. I have also worked for Ponte Winery, and moonlighted for Longshadow Ranch and Winery a couple of times.
Until next time….peace, love and vino!